Is Transparency Always Best?

Is honesty always the best policy?

In PR, we often talk about transparency. Being open and honest with your public is the best way to keep a good relationship – just with any other relationship you hold in life. But during a crisis, should you tell everything?

There was recently a situation I witnessed where the executive director of a nonprofit organization resigned. This isn’t typically earth-shattering news; however, he gave no notice (left immediately), and it happened on a Tuesday (odd). The press release cited “personal reasons” for his departure. This sounds fine and dandy, but it leaves so many questions unanswered.

Unanswered questions are where problems start to form.

If a question is left unanswered, it leaves room for speculation which leads to gossip. ‘What’s the real reason?’, everyone wants to know. ‘Something had to have happened.’ When people are left to their own imagination to answer these questions, their answers are likely more severe and dramatic than the real answers.

So yes, honesty is the best policy. Avoid speculation by being open and honest with your publics.

Customer Service After the Sale

Customer service doesn’t just happen when someone is at your place of business or purchasing your product. Customer service can (and should) happen after the sale too, and can make an even bigger impact than you’d expect.

Example:

My husband and I traveled internationally last week and flew United Airlines. I knew tickets would be expensive, and it wasn’t going to be an enjoyable experience (8 hours in coach), but you gotta do what you gotta do if you want to go to Europe from the U.S. The most you can hope for is that you make it there safe, your flight is on time and there aren’t any unpleasant passengers.

However, great customer service can make what you expect to be a mediocre experience a pleasant one. Here are four examples in one trip of how United Airlines did just that.

After a week vacation, it was time to head home (boo!). We had an 8 hour flight ahead of us followed by a 2 hour layover and another 2.5 hour flight. The morning of our departure, we checked the flight (or maybe my husband got a notification via the App, not 100% sure) and realized it was running an hour late. This was going to be a MAJOR problem, as we only had a 2-hour layover in D.C. which included going through customs. When we checked in, the person working the desk noticed the delay and our short turnover. Without request, he checked later flights to see if he could go ahead and put us on a list for one of those in case we didn’t make it. (#1) Unfortunately they were full, but at least he tried – and without request. He wished us the best and sent us on our way.

Once we were in the air and they came around for beverages, I ordered a glass of wine. The attendant notified me that the first round complimentary because of the delay. (#2)

As a flight attendant came around towards the end of the flight, we mentioned we already had a short layover in D.C., and with the delay we were concerned about making our connection in time. We had a few discussions about what we and she could and couldn’t do to help, but no luck. However, she did offer to make an announcement after the plane landed asking customers whose final destination was D.C. or who had a longer layover if they could stay seated, so those of us with short layovers could get off the plane first. (#3)

We made it off the plane with a whopping 45 minutes until our next flight was wheels up. Unfortunately customs was no help (heads up, there’s no line skipping there). But while in line and killing time, I checked my email and saw there was a note from United Airlines. After seeing that our flight was delayed and the next flight would be cutting it close, United went ahead and booked us on a later flight rerouted through a different city (because remember, the other flights were full) just in case we didn’t make our flight. (#4) They didn’t cancel our original flight, just got us on the next one as a back-up.

What did this cost United Airlines? Maybe $100 in booze to the drinkers on the plane. A little bit of extra effort from their staff. But that’s about it.

What did they get out of it? A very satisfied customer who will be flying United again, and recommending others do the same.

The takeaway for today: There’s nothing more valuable than excellent customer service. Especially after the sale. And employees can be your most valuable PR.

What can you do to serve your customers after the sale?

Generic Brand Video: Dumb or Genius?

If you haven’t seen it yet, PLEASE check out Dissolve’s Generic Brand Video.

Did you laugh? Did you cringe?

It’s funny because it’s true – and it’s a little sad. As you watch the video, you’ll recognize all the typical elements found in an ’emotional’ advertisement. Stunning imagery. Diversity. Personalization. Strong words. Dissolve calls out ‘lazy’ brands who use stock imagery and predictable tactics for sucking you in. Where has the creativity gone?

The weird thing is . . . stock imagery is Dissolve’s business. While the video is getting them some recognition (the video has nearly 100,000 views), is it the kind of recognition they’re looking for? By calling out ‘lazy’ brands for using stock footage, they’re essentially dissing their clientele.

On the other hand, stock footage is so widely used, it’s inevitable that it’s going to show up in some form of communication. Why not promote your company with humor, and a touch of brutal honesty? Honestly, some of the stock footage is quite impressive, it made me consider reaching out to them for any future needs.

What do you think? Did Dissolve make a bad move, or is this a genius marketing idea?

After watching the Generic Brand Video, this is the first thing that came to mind. Sorry Ram.

 

Always Have a Goal

Stop reading this post and think for just a second: What is one of your goals in life? (Personal or professional.)

I’ll wait…

If you don’t have one, it’s time to start thinking. If you have just one – that’s a great start! If you have multiple, well, kudos to you!

In my previous job, I never had a longterm goal. When people asked me what I saw in my future, I honestly didn’t know. I wanted a  job I enjoyed, a happy family, and a good life – but that’s about as far as my vision went. I knew having goals was important, but I just didn’t know what I wanted to do.

Then I started training for a marathon. That was a goal. It was personal, it wasn’t professional, but it was a start. After finishing my first marathon, the goal from there was just to be healthy. I adopted a pretty normal exercise routine and continued to register for races. Signing up for a race 10 months in the future was an easy way to create a goal. But I was still only thinking personal, not professional.

When I started my current job in August 2012, I had the opportunity to go back to school. After working here for a semester, I began classes in the spring, knowing it would take 5 semesters to complete my master’s degree. Today, I was working on gathering paperwork together to submit my application for graduation and to schedule comps. This will all be over in August. My goal will be completed.

Coming to this realization, I decided to set my next goal. Getting my APR. I know, there’s a split debate on the value of becoming an APR, but for right now it’s the only certification (that I’m aware of) in our field. So why not strive for it? I haven’t fully looked into the process, so I don’t yet have a timeframe, but it’s a start. I know now that once I complete my goal of attaining my master’s degree, I know the next step. And that’s important.

I still don’t have a BIG goal. I don’t think they just come to you. They take time to develop, and you truly have to want it. There’s no point in making up a goal you don’t want, because you won’t work towards it. Find out what you want – set that goal – and do it.

How can you continue to grow if you don’t know where you’re going?

The importance of a social media plan

Everyone always talks about social media plans, but who actually does them? I mean isn’t the whole point of social media to be current news and information – how can you plan ahead for a future you don’t know about? You know who does social media plans: organizations who are successful on social media. It’s not a fluke that some of your favorite brands on social media are successful – they plan ahead.

I recently made my first social media plan. It was a bit overwhelming at first trying to figure out where to start, but I knew that all great plans started with research, so that’s where I began. I wanted to develop a social media plan for our local United Way. They’re starting a new marketing campaign to reach Millennials, so I figured I could help them out by planning the social media aspect of it all. So I researched Millennials, which social media they are one, which social media is most popular, how nonprofit organizations are currently using social media, recommended tips for nonprofits on social media, and more. Then I went into an in-depth audit of United Way SEMS’s current social media. With these two primary groupings of information combined, I felt educated enough to begin to make plans for United Way SEMS to be successful in their social media efforts. I didn’t compose tweets or Facebook posts, but provided a general outline that will help guide their efforts over the next four months. You can check out the paper here.

If you haven’t done a social media plan before, here’s a basic outline that will help get you started.

  • Background Research
    • Why should you even be on social media?
    • How is social media being used by other companies in your field?
    • How does your target market interact with social media?
    • How have other companies been successful in reaching this target market in the past?
  • Social Media Audit
    • Describe the organization; What is their mission? How is their social media managed?
    • How are they currently using social media? Breakdown each platform individually
  • Social Media Action Plan: Goals/Objectives
    • What does the company want to achieve?
    • What is the overarching marketing goal, outside of social media?
    • What are SMART objectives for each platform?
  • Social Media Action Plan: Strategies/Tactics
    • What strategy will you use to achieve this goal and these objectives?
    • What tactics did your research provide that indicate how the company can be successful on social media?
  • Measurement/Evaluation
    • What tools will you use to measure the success of this campaign?
  • Summary
    • What’s the big take-away from it all?

This is just the general outline I used to create my social media plan. I’m sure there are a million more ways to do it, each with their own pros and cons. I hope you too will take the time to create a social media plan, so your business can reach its fullest potential on their social media.

Have a laugh

One thing I love about public relations is that there are always opportunities to have a good time. Maybe it’s just me, but I try not to take myself too seriously. Occasionally, I like to share the silly things I find in life or on the internet with my fellow PR friends. Perhaps other career paths allow for a little humor (although I don’t think I’ll ever understand accounting humor…), but because PR can relate to nearly anything and everything, the laughs abound!

Here’s one I found courtesy of George Takai:

Image

Ha! Grammar Pirates!

Oh, and another:

So true!

Have you had a laugh today?

Greetings! Tips for addressing emails

Yesterday I received an email from someone with the salutation, “Greetings!” While this is a commonly used introduction into an email, it made me chuckle, because the only way I could read it was in an extraterrestrial-sounding voice followed by the word “Earthlings…” It got me thinking about my email salutations, how I use them and why.

And then, as if a sign from the internet, when I opened up Huffington Post to see what’s going on in the world today, there’s an article about Email Sign-Off Etiquette! And because of that, I figured a blog post was just meant to be.

Just as everything you do in public relations requires you to think about the public first, email salutations and signatures are no different. You wouldn’t send the same signature to your mother “Love you!” as you would to your boss “Love…er…my job!” While those are two extremes, you get the point.

Here’s my basic go-to, that might work as a good guide for you as well:

  • Close Friends/Family: Very casual, often includes exclamation points and words like “Hey” “Thanks”
  • Peers/Colleagues: Slightly less casual, but not formal – Hi and Thanks are still used. Always use their name in the intro. (what if you accidentally entered the wrong email address?). Here you can use “Best” “Kind Regards” etc. to close out the email.
  • Superiors: More formal; often more to-the-point and less conversational. These emails need to be succinct. Use the person’s first name (if that relationship is established, formal name if not) and close with a “Thank you” or nothing at all (see HuffPost article and note below)
  • Unknown: Best to err on the side of formality; salutation includes formal address “Mr. Smith,”; email closes with a detailed thank you hinting at a call to action, such as “Thank you for assistance in this matter.” If you’re unsure of the person’s title, call their assistant and ask.

It’s important to remember that email is just another form of communication. Everyone uses language differently, and you always need to portray your individuality. For example, I don’t ever use “Hello” in an email because I can’t remember the last time I actually used the word. I use the word “thankful” more than “gracious” because that’s how I speak, and I want my email to portray who I am.

The HuffPost article mentioned above recommends getting rid of salutations unless they add something to the email. Don’t close with “Thanks” unless you’re actually thanking someone for something. (I guess I always considered it as shorthand for “thanks for reading my email.” But does that really add to the conversation?) So, this week I’m going to pay closer attention to my salutations, and taking a shot at leaving it off when I can.

How do you handle your salutations and signatures?